Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)
Drew’s brother, Mason, has recently been sent to the Residential Reform Academy, a therapeutic boarding school, to overcome his ‘behavioural problems’. The hope that Mason will come back a changed person becomes fear that Mason will come back a zombified changed person when a woman who says she worked at the Academy accosts Drew and hands her a note, supposedly from her brother, before running off.
Help me, Drew! We’re not being reformed, we’re being brainwashed.
Because this is a young adult novel, pretty much all of the adults are useless, evil or disinterested so if someone is going to save the day it’s going to have to be Drew. And that’s just what she decides to do.
Now Drew is also at the Academy and if she doesn’t figure out a foolproof plan soon, her brother won’t be the only one getting treated.
‘Obedience, compliance and honesty. They’re the bedrocks of society.’
This was a quick, compulsive read. There’s danger, action and a bunch of kids who have all been labelled as bad stuck in a system that’s supposed to be helping them but could actually be causing them irreparable harm.
Drew was an interesting main character. Initially a loner, she rallies when she learns her brother is in danger and even makes a friend along the way. I really liked Mouse, although I wanted to learn more about her backstory. I found Lacey and Jude so very irritating, but it probably would have been weird if I didn’t want to find a way to reach through the pages to slap them.
Some coincidences were a little over the top, like Zed just so happening to live close enough to Drew that they could meet face to face and Lacey just so happening to wind up at the Academy as well. In Drew’s very own room. What did Lacey do to get sent there anyway? Was she really so desperate to bully Drew that she followed her there? Speaking of coincidences, Drew’s dad, who’s been missing for eight years, just so happened to also be at the Academy.
Then there were the things that seemed too easy, like people being deprogrammed so quickly when they were faced with a specific fear. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert at reversing brainwashing but if any of the things I’ve read about cults are true, then it’s not a switch that can simply be turned off. It seems to be a much more intense and drawn out process than how it’s portrayed here.
The ending felt rushed and a bit too neat, and I have some unanswered questions. However, this was an enjoyable read and I am interested in reading more books by this author.
Content warnings include bullying.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
“You have to help me. We’re not being reformed. We’re being brainwashed.”
All sixteen year old Drew Finch wants is to be left alone. She’s not interested in spending time with her mum and stepdad and when her disruptive fifteen year old brother Mason is expelled from school for the third time and sent to a residential reform academy she’s almost relieved.
Everything changes when she’s followed home from school by the mysterious Dr Cobey, who claims to have a message from Mason. There is something sinister about the ‘treatment’ he is undergoing. The school is changing people.
Determined to help her brother, Drew must infiltrate the Academy and unearth its deepest, darkest secrets.
Before it’s too late.